Airport commission determined

Members pursue finding terminal financing solution

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Members of the Yampa Valley Airport Commission received encouragement from County Manager Tom Sullivan on Thursday night to pursue financing options for the next phase of terminal improvements at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Sullivan notified the airport commission Aug. 12 that it's possible that the next phase of expansion at the terminal could be put off for a year if the county is not successful in getting the federal wetlands permit it needs to build a new justice center near the Routt County Jail. He told the commission at the time that county government isn't certain it can handle the risk of seeking funding for the terminal project at the same time it's uncertain of financing for a delayed justice center.

"It's a question of how much debt can Routt County absorb and how much debt are we comfortable funding?" Sullivan said.

Commission members asked Sullivan whether the county commissioners had open minds to creative solutions that would allow construction of the terminal expansion next summer.

"We have believed we had the commissioners' support and that the terminal expansion was a high priority for the community," airport commission chairman Marty Kolonel said. "And we had a plan to do this next year. There is a rapidly closing timeline to execute the project in 2005. Are the (county) commissioners open to us going out and finding a way to make it happen?"

Sullivan said yes.

"They are open to ideas," he said. "If we could find a credible way to present a capital proposal that wouldn't affect the courthouse project, I believe we'd have their support to move forward."

Sullivan said the commissioners' hesitancy has to do with the uncertainty from year to year about whether Congress will vote to appropriate federal airport entitlement funds. If the feds didn't come through with funds in the future, it could undermine the county's longstanding philosophy of paying cash for big ticket items such as heavy road equipment, he added.

"There is still the risk of putting the county in a poor position because we don't get $1 million (in FAA funds) some year," Sullivan said. "That's still the risk, and the risk is to the county."

Airport commission member Chris Diamond said he thinks the way to proceed is to sit down with a financial consultant under contract with the county and work out a model demonstrating how increased revenues generated by an expanded airport could underwrite the debt.

Kolonel will lead a task force pursuing that idea.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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